Cover image for At home in the studio : the professionalization of women artists in America
At home in the studio : the professionalization of women artists in America
Prieto, Laura R., 1968-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, [2001]

Physical Description:
xii, 292 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
N8354 .P75 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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This engaging cultural history examines the emergence of a professional identity for American women artists. By focusing on individual sculptors, painters, and illustrators, Laura Prieto gives us a compelling picture of the prospects and constraints faced by women artists in the United States from the late eighteenth century through the 1930s.

Prieto tracks the transformation from female artisans and ladies with genteel "artistic accomplishments" to middle-class professional artists. Domestic spaces and familial metaphors helped legitimate the production of art by women. Expression of sexuality and representation of the nude body, on the other hand, posed problems for these artists. Women artists at first worked within their separate sphere, but by the end of the nineteenth century "New Women" grew increasingly uncomfortable with separatism, wanting ungendered recognition. With the twentieth century came striking attempts to reconcile domestic lives and careers with new expectations; these decades also ruptured the women's earlier sense of community with amateur women artists in favor of specifically professional allegiances. This study of a diverse group of women artists--diverse in critical reception, geographic location, race, and social background--reveals a forgotten aspect of art history and women's history.

Author Notes

Laura R. Prieto is Assistant Professor of History and Women's Studies at Simmons College, Boston.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Prieto (Simmons College) reconstructs a substantial chronology for women artists in the US in this revised dissertation. Two tendencies that wax and wane over a century are traced: the drive to be an artist and the desire to be a woman, both providing a basis for professionalization. Portraiture, still life, miniatures, and various forms of decorative painting provided women with initial training opportunities. The studio became an extension of domestic space--sometimes further interconnected through marriage to a male artist. Although Prieto alludes to familiar arguments regarding gender and creativity and cites lack of opportunities such as access to nude models, these issues do not dominate her discourse. The formation of the Ladies' Art Association and the establishment of Women's Pavilions at World Expositions in 1876 and 1893 are significant moments. Prieto's study ends in the 1920s, when modernism's focus on the individual threatened cooperative structures that had previously fostered women's artistic professionalism. Though the text is more history than art history--and sparsely illustrated--Prieto nonetheless demonstrates an ability to read works of art, interweaving their visual narratives into the context of women's artistic development. Highly recommended for all collections. General readers; lower-division undergraduates through professionals. E. K. Menon Purdue University

Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsp. ix
Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Introductionp. 1
1 Peculiarly Fitted to Artp. 12
2 Domesticating Professional Artp. 41
3 Figures and Fig Leavesp. 70
4 Sculpting Butter: Gender Separatism and the Professional Idealp. 108
5 Portrait of the Artist as a New Womanp. 145
6 Making the Modern Woman Artistp. 179
Notesp. 213
Bibliographyp. 279
Indexp. 284